BASTROP, Texas – April 3, 2018 --- The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for a targeted effort through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to address wildfire mitigation needs on agricultural lands in the Bastrop County. The Bastrop County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) sponsored the proposal to target wildfire mitigation efforts through the EQIP program, allowing additional funding to be available to ag producers for specific conservation practices like firebreaks, fuel breaks, prescribed burning and brush thinning.
The Bastrop County SWCD has been working with landowners since 1958 to protect and enhance our natural resources, often through cooperation and partnership with the USDA-NRCS. “As we saw in 2011, wildfires threaten our soil and water resources because the lack of cover causes erosion and sedimentation in waterways,” notes Brook Hurta, chairman for the Bastrop SWCD. “We feel it is important for all landowners to be proactive in managing their property to reduce the risk of wildfire danger to help protect our valuable resources and make the county safer for everyone.”
Hilary Bravenec, District Conservationist with the NRCS, agrees, “After experiencing three catastrophic wildfires in the recent decade, most Bastrop County residents understand deep down that it’s not if a wildfire will happen again but when it will happen. In relatively wet years, the threat of wildfires seems further away, but a “flash drought” can hit any time, quickly escalating the risk of wildfire. In 2015, Bastrop County received over 50” of rain, including dramatic rainfall and flood events that spring, but the Hidden Pines fire ignited after extremely dry weather between July and September.”
NRCS encourages the use of brush management, shaded fuel breaks, prescribed burning and other practices to reduce fuel loads that contribute to extreme wildfire behavior. Large swaths of the county have excessive cedar and yaupon invasions that aren’t representative of the historic landscape. These species are volatile and often serve as ladder fuels that spread fire into tree canopies and make a fire much more dangerous, as witnessed in the catastrophic 2011 Bastrop Complex Fire. Areas with ladder fuels experienced the greatest fire severity, whereas fire severity was much lower in areas that previously received understory clearing treatments.
Wildfire mitigation is not a one-time treatment. Brush regrows, so maintenance should be ongoing to keep fuel loads in check.
Conservation technical assistance from the Bastrop County SWCD or USDA-NRCS is always free and available to all landowners in the county. EQIP is available to agricultural producers on agricultural lands and can provide financial assistance for wildfire mitigation and many other conservation concerns. In Texas, the NRCS has set an initial EQIP application cutoff of April 20th, with another cutoff on June 1st. Interested producers should apply before those dates by contacting the Bastrop County NRCS office at 512-321-2489 ex. 3 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The USDA Service Center is located at 507 Old Austin Hwy, Bastrop, TX 78602.
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